Lars Brownworth — the man who brought me one of my favorite all-time podcasts, 12 Byzantine Rulers — has a new project out: Norman Centuries. I'm excited that he's going to cover Norman activity in Sicily and Southern Italy as well as France and England. This is especially nice timing since The History of Rome Podcast went on fall break this week while the host, Mike Duncan, gets married, honeymoons and moves.
If I was a screenwriter I bet I could mine a half a dozen movie ideas out of Brownworth's Byzantine series. We've had out fill of (Western) Roman stuff, and it's time for some Byzantine movies. It's an exotic but still relatable setting. Constantinople would provides lush visuals: huge monuments, broad battlements, busy ports and markets, opulent palaces. You've got epic clashes of civilizations mediated by confrontations between influential schemers which keeps the struggles personal. Back-stabbing advisers, generals on the make, cunning wives, rival bishops, underage emperors, disloyal guard captains. Good stuff.
I have just learned that one of my favorite Sicilian dishes, Pasta alla Norma, was named after Bellini's opera Norma, and not after the Normans, as it was originally explained to me. In light of that, and because there's never a bad time for Maria Callas, here's Casta Diva from Norma: